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October 14, 2019

Like the BBC, only much, much greedier, the 5pm Food blog always aims to educate, entertain and inform. So today we are going to deliver a lecture on zorses, or zebra-horse hybrids.

Only joking. Well, sort of.

We have just started running a Big Deal on an overnight stay for two at the gorgeous Craigie Hotel in Midlothian.

At the foot of the Pentland Hills, just 20 minutes from Edinburgh, it has an amazing location for an easy countryside break from Edinburgh but could also be used as a convenient base for a day trip to Auld Reekie.

You can read all the details here. All we're saying is deluxe double, full Scottish breakfast, main course meal and wine!

We were tickled by the hotel's history.

It was originally built in 1885 by the architect George Washington Browne for one James Cossar Ewart.

Penicuik-born Ewart studied medicine at the University of Edinburgh and, after several posts elsewhere, he returned to Ed Uni in 1882 and became Professor of Natural History.

The Penycuik experiments

A zorse - very handy on the African plains. Possibly less so in the 3.30 at Musselburgh.

A zorse - very handy on the African plains. Possibly less so in the 3.30 at Musselburgh. Pic: Facebook.

He cemented his reputation performing pioneering breeding experiments with horses and zebras in the grounds of the house.

In 1899, the results of his work were published in The Penycuik Experiments.

Now we realise that to the modern ear this may sound like a new Netflix zombie series but his important goal was to produce an animal that could work in South Africa and withstand African diseases.

He also worked on sheep and, as I'm sure you know, both lampreys and the placentation of the Shanghai River deer.

It is thanks to Ewart that a University Lectureship in Genetics was established in 1911 at the University of Edinburgh. It was the first post of its kind in the UK.

He died at his home on New Year's Eve 1933/34 and the house was converted to a hotel.

Elegant rooms

The latest owners refurbished it and made it into the elegant space that it is now. It re-opened in 2017.

While the hotel has changed beyond all recognition, there are plenty of charming links to its past.

Photos of Mr Ewart can be found all around the hotel as well as other mementoes of his work. Look out for zebra prints, pictures of zorses and animals carved into the corbels of bay windows at The Craigie.

Little zebra touches look back to the hotel's past.

Little zebra touches look back to the hotel's past. Pic: Facebook.